Superstar athletes in the National Football League not only lead their teams to success but also earn a hefty paycheck while doing so. Although the average NFL salary is among the lowest ($2.1 million) among the four major sports organizations in the U.S. (MLB, NFL, NHL, NBA), elite football players still make more money than athletes in other leagues. So how much do these gridiron greats earn? We thought you might ask.

To construct a proper ranking, we collected data from Spotrac.com, which featured the career base salaries and signing bonuses over the past three years for each player currently active in the NFL. We used this information to rank players based on their current team’s respective home state location and their career cash earnings. States that do not have a home team were excluded from our study.

Read on to see which of the NFL’s top athletes are cashing in the biggest checks.

Top Money Ballers


Standout players in the NFL are no strangers to living a lavish life, signing multiyear contracts with teams that offer the highest bid.

Eli Manning – quarterback for the New York Giants – is the richest player in the NFL, which also makes him the richest player in the Garden State, New Jersey. The two-time Super Bowl star dominated the state income bracket by bringing in nearly $206 million throughout his career.

Trailing behind Manning is none other than GOAT (greatest of all time) himself, Tom Brady. Brady – serving as quarterback for the New England Patriots – has led both his team and bank account to great heights – cashing in a substantial stash of over $196 million.

It should come as no surprise that quarterbacks dominate our rankings, considering they’re the highest paid position in the league.

The Sunshine State serves as home turf for three NFL teams: the Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Out of the three teams, Mario Williams – defensive end for the Miami Dolphins – is the richest player in the state, with career earnings exceeding $120 million.

Regional Riches

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Which NFL players are the highest paid in each region? It’s common football knowledge to understand the eight distinct divisions in the NFL, but the salaries earned in each of these areas are less likely to be a topic of conversation.

We gathered players’ salaries, including signing bonuses, to see how the pay gap differs across the country. After dividing the teams up by region (Northeast, Midwest, South, and West), we then ranked the top-paid superstars in each state. Of the four regions, the Midwest and the South contribute the most football clubs to the league.

Julius Peppers – outside linebacker for the Green Bay Packers – dominates the pay scale in the Midwest with career earnings reaching almost $156 million. Accompanying Peppers as a moneymaking machine is southern competitor Drew Brees – a seasoned quarterback for the New Orleans Saints – who rakes in nearly $182 million. Between repping the black and gold for 11 seasons and emerging victorious against the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV – Brees sure knows how to make big bucks in the Big Easy.

Ever wonder who the top paid NFL stars are in your home state? Now is your chance to find out. Use our interactive by selecting a region and state in the drop-down menu. The chart will then display the top five richest NFL players in the area, including their current team and earnings.

Money in the Bank

Salary Comparison NFL

By now, we’re all aware of the lump sum earned by NFL ballers for their on-field successes. We decided to compare the salary of these gridiron millionaires to other massive figures to put it all in perspective.

Let’s begin with Jay Cutler’s – starting quarterback for the Chicago Bears – career earnings, which total just over $112 million. It would take the average NFL player approximately 52 years to match Cutler’s stash. Tony Romo is no lone star in this category either, considering the Texas quarterback has earned nearly $127.5 million during his time in the league – amounting to almost the entire operating income of the New York Giants.

On the other hand, DeMarcus Ware’s – linebacker for the Denver Broncos – $90 million career earnings could have paid for the construction of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Spain.


If there’s one thing you should take away from our findings, it’s that NFL players are among the highest paid athletes in the U.S. As the league grows, so do player contracts, signing bonuses, and salaries – which attracts high-class talent to a team’s roster. No matter which state these superstars are playing in, one thing is for certain – they sure know how to excite a sold-out stadium under any condition.


We collected and organized data from Spotrac.com for all salary and bonus data for players in the NFL. Only career earnings from salary and bonuses were considered through the end of the 2016 regular season.

Regarding the comparison of Ndamukong Suh's salary to the combined salaries of all players in the MLS, the comparison excludes players who are a part of the MLS Designated Player Rule.

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